Tag Archives: Deity

Spiritual Community, Ecologic Community (Week 9)

(Image by Jessica Perlstein, as concept art for Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing, curiosly a widely cited book in both paganism and solarpunk šŸ™‚ )

Hello again folks!

This post is another prompt by the ongoing Deepening Resilience Project organized by Syren Nagakyrie. I’m a little bit behind, so I hope you will forgive me on the delay for this one. Some genius around here decided to take on a solarpunk novella project that is due June 1st. Yes, that ‘genius’ is me, and yes that was sarcasm. It would seem I am glutton for writing-based punishment.

All the same, I think the question today is an important one, and I certainly have a lot to say on this topic!

How can we work with the spirits of land, deities, and ancestors as we address climate change and build resilience?

I would like to jump right into the deep end with this one, so first I want to start with a basic understanding of how I relate to the concepts of spirits, deities, and ancestors. For starters, I would probably best describe my spirituality as a kind of naturalistic animism; the intersection of science, spirituality, and big ‘s’ Story. It is a path grounded firmly in physical reality, but with plenty of room for awe, inspiration, and reverence. It is a relational path that asks us to consider ourselves as agents in a much bigger, much more complex, cosmic system.

I don’t default to supernatural explanations for my spiritual understanding of that complexity. There is no ‘Otherworld’, or ‘outside’ beings in my cosmology. There is the here and now, the physical beneath our feet, and the wonderful, complex, and marvelous universe we happen to inhabit. Spirits, ancestors and deities are here for me, not beyond some mysterious spiritual veil, nor residing in some spirit-only ā€œspiritual planeā€. There is no Veil, except maybe the one we pulled over our own eyes. If the spirits are hidden from us, it’s because we’ve become infected by self-inflected blindness. We have simply refused to see them, and that is our own fault, and perhaps of the very monotheistic worldview we have been raised in.

That means that how I relate to spirits is very much grounded in practical knowledge and experience. I am a hunter, a hiker, and all around person of the outdoors. I like to swim, to walk, and to kayak. I love archery, as well as anthropology and archaeology. I have one foot in the past, one in the present, and an unaccounted for third foot in the future.

I see the world as something intrinsically filled with creativity, with life, and with agency. The basic drive of the universe is to create, to make new and mysterious forms with basic parts formed in the hearts of long dead stars. To take those parts, and to create planets which like the Earth, eventually have life emerge from them. This is not a linear process, nor one dictated by some almighty outside god. It has starts and stops, failures, and restarts. I have no idea if it has any kind of ultimate goal, but that doesn’t take away from the deeply spiritual nature of that experience. To be the result of billions of years of creativity is a hell of a spiritual experience. I’m scavenged parts from a dead star, a bit of the cosmos, having a very Earthly and human experience. That’s wild and wonderful.

Earth is a planet that was born in fires of Sol, our local star. A planet of countless cultural names, orbiting of star with just as many names. My cosmology is rooted in complexity, and complex systems. Systems like forests that have a life and spirit all their own. Rivers, who are far more than just fish poo and water. Entire complex networks of deer, dirt, and other denizens that in totality starts to look a lot like a living, breathing, being. This extends to me for to the whole Earth, the only planet we know of with a robust biosphere, and an intelligent civilization building species.

Ancestors are still with me, deep in my own DNA, and buried into the collective memory the Earth as a living being. A living planet, the child of the Sun, which is another link in the ancestral tree that goes back to beginning of Creation, of our Universe, as a whole. Even grounded solidly in nature, my spiritual path is full of ancestors, forest and river gods, and spirits from the Whitetail Deer to Hydrogen Atoms, and everything within and beyond that.

As such, working with spirits, deities, and ancestors is as much a practice of science and ecology as it is practice of spirituality. With my gods existing in forests and rivers, my ancestors in my blood and bones, as well the earth around me, and the spirits I work with being in part, the totality of a living biosphere; climate change is a crisis for all of them. For all of us, as it is for the whole living, breathing being of the planet. Gods, ancestors, and spirits; are all part of this process. The climate crisis threatens millions of species of organisms, as well as ourselves.

The Climate Crisis is a Global Crises, and no one, not even our spirits and ancestors, get a pass on this one.

A loss of a habit is the loss of innumerable spirits; the death of forest and river gods. Logging, industrial waste, plastics in our oceans, that is Threat to them as much as it is to me. For me, that has resulted in deeply painful experiences that run the gamut of human emotions, and non-human emotions that I can translate. The gods of the forest are just as angry as we are, just as scared. Others are angry, and blame us for where we are now. I don’t blame them for that, as we fuel up the bulldozers for another oil pipeline.

One of the big problems associated with the climate crisis are climate refugees. People displaced by raging fires and rising seas. But most of rhetoric on the crisis only includes human refugees. From an animistic perspective, is has been happening for a longtime. How many non-human persons have been displaced? How many fish, how many birds, how many trees? How many megatons of earth have we scrapped clean of deep buried memories? How many ancestors have been dug up and taken away into colonial museums?

Human and non-human communities are already being displaced, already being forced into extinction by human-driven climate change. Habitat loss is spiritual loss, and that breaks down communities and the relationships that joins them together. There is deep trauma there, and deep grief. Not only for ourselves, but for the planet as well. I don’t think any of us get out of this clean, without scarring.

But climate refugees, broken habitats, and broken communities is not where this ends. As a bit of an optimist to a fault, being aware of the problem is only the first step. Looking with eyes unclouded at all we have done and articulating the raw scale and scope of the problem is only the first step. Once we’ve framed the problem, and gods is it planetary, then we can start to see what needs to be done. That is the Work that we all have to do.

From an animistic perspective, we start to realize that the scope of this problem is big, really big. It is a crisis of communities, in the widest and broadest sense of the word. The destruction of non-human communities, ecological communities, to fulfill our own needs is what brought us here. The Work that needs to be done is taking a step back away from that precipice.

(Artist credit, AJ-Illustrated)

We can start by epicly scaling up the rebuilding of communities. Not only for human communities but for non-human ones as well. Maybe by making half the planet into a nature preserve. That would certainly go a long way towards giving non-human communities the space they need to rebuild as they see fit. Ecosystems are amazing like that. If we give them the space, the forests and rivers will come back. Maybe not the same as they were before, but they will rebuild.

Yet, the crisis is also a lot bigger than that. The scale of transformations we need to make cut across our own communities as well. The science is clear at this point, and we need to change our political, economic, and social systems to have a chance at navigating our way through the climate hell storm. There are countless numbers of technical, economic, and social ideas on the table. Wind turbines, carbon pricing, ‘rights of nature’, hydrogen fuel cells… There is no silver bullet, but a lot that can and needs to be done.

In addition to giving space for natural communities to do their own thing, we can also embark on large public works project; such as habitat restoration. Creating new forests and wetlands, rehabilitation of old mining sites, and wide reaching preservation of the biomes across the planet. More than this, we can also embark on the great Work of building a truly ecological and sustainable civilization.

Our cities and communities are spirits in their own right, the gods inhabit our cities if you prefer. They are also huge systems of matter and energy, human-created ecosystems. Cities especially really start to look a lot like living beings from an animistic perspective. Adaptation is part of evolution, and it is time for our cities to evolve. A big first step would be inviting non-humans back into our cities. Urban gardens, green roofs, urban agroforestry, and expansive green infrastructure in place of the gray of parking lots.

By producing more of what we need within our cities, as well as using natural solutions to clean air and water, we can reduce the impact of our own communities. Growing food within cities means less in fuel and pollution to import food. Growing materials such as wood, hemp, and bamboo, we have to produce and import less concrete and steel. By creating decentralized and localized systems of renewable energy, we can create more resilient cities in a less certain future. Wide scale grid failures would become a thing of the past with networks of decentralized and distributed community scale microgrids.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say there is a lot that can and should be done. Spirits are in our ecosystems and in our communities. Gods can be found in our cities and forests. Ancestors are within ourselves as well as part of the deep memory of the Earth. The Work that must be done includes everyone. A large part of that of that work is rebuilding relationships with each other, and rebuilding communities whether they are human, animal, or plant. In short, working with the spirits, deities, and ancestors, is the act of creating a sustainable planetary community for everyone.

Thanks for reading!


Following Skadi

The title of this post is inspired by a song. The link to a decent quality version on YouTube can be found at the bottom. More than that though, this post is brought on by the recent changes in my spiritual learning.

I have talked before about how I generally lack what is normally called the ‘god phone’. I cannot speak to deity, it is just not one of my talents. Well, as I have been uncovering recently, this might just be on my end. Perhaps my “sending” doesn’t work, if that makes any sense. “Receiving” on the other hand, works alright. Perhaps the gods just have better service than I do. I can try to ‘call’ them all day, but never get through. On the other end, they seem to get through just fine. That being said, I rarely ever hear from them. As I have admitted previously, I have gotten clear, undeniable messages from deities like twice in my whole life, including the most recent instance.

Now, I’ve read a fair amount of priesting for deities, Gothi, god-spousing or what have you. Let me be the first to say that none of those are my relationship with Skadi. She has picked me up recently, and to be frank, it is more of an apprenticeship than anything else is at the moment. The power dynamic is fairly egalitarian, though this may seem count-intuitive. I would have thought differently, given it is me, a simple mortal, involvedĀ with a goddess in a very platonic way. It’s more like sheĀ is theĀ mentor, and I am the student. The experienced teaching the much-less-so. I hope that makes sense. That is not to say it is not cruelty-free, because like any good teacher, she is quick to remind me when I am being a skxawng. (Na’vi =Ā “moron”)

Yet, it is a tall order. She is not the kind I would call matronly. Yes, we can quibble about meaning, but she is compassionate in the “learn fast or die” kind of way. Yes, I also realize I am mixing in Avatar metaphors. Maybe it is because I rewatched it recently, but I would argue more towards that Skadi reminds me a little of how Neytiri is portrayed. Perhaps with a little more “hardcore” mixed in. Take out the “Eden” of a jungle, and switch it to a northern winter. Then you get Skadi.

In short, she has given me a metric shit-ton of homework. It will take me years to learn all that she wants me too, and the decade or so I already do have is little more than primer. It may just be a lifelong process, as there is plenty to do. A full list of hunters skills, leatherwork, wildcraft (edible plants, herb lore,foods, skills, magic, foraging stuff), butchery, metal work (knives, wood axes ect), woodwork, tracking, hunting, fishing, and so on and so forth. I already have some good solid experience in most of these areas, but she is asking me to turn it up even more. Specialize, practice, perfect, ect ect. There is even an exercise routine it would seem. I need to be able to keep up, and that involves a level of physical strength, in addition to mental discipline.

This all got me to thinking. If I were going about teaching those things that I understand to a student, I would select someone with an aptitude at least. I started to wonder if the gods do something similar? Depending on how literal you take the creation stories, it could be said we were made in their semblance. To me at least, gods are very human-like spirit beings that haveĀ a vested interest in our welfare.

A post I read recently by GalinaĀ Krasskova said this, in reference to Odin:Ā “Using myself, patterned as I have been by the Old Man and in His service, while yes, I automatically and instinctually calculate usefulness when I meet someone, it does not mean that this is all I note. Just because someone is not particularly useful in the service to Odin, doesn’t mean that such a person lacks value. He or she may not be suited to *this*. There are many other things for which one might be very well suited that are outside of Odin’s interest.”

I find it worthy of a ponder. I would say, at least on a general level, that many of the gods seem to take an interest in people like themselves. The gods are individuals, and as such have their own skills and interests. When it comes to… picking mortal representatives, students, ect, I would comment that many of the people picked reflect the deity doing the picking. The Odin folk I have met… can be combative at times, in addition to other traits. The Lokeans (still not sure if they like that word), have more than a few of his qualities. I have been picked up by Skadi, and I don’t see that as much of a coincidence. Not saying that coincidences do not happen, because sometimes a spoon isĀ just a spoon. But in this case, I don’t think so.

So where does this leave me? With a hell of a lot of work to do, first off. Also, there will probably be a handful of more Skadi posts going forward. There is certainly more to explore there. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Fferyllt – Following Skadi (Pagan Folk Metal)

I highly recommend looking up the lyrics while you listen!

 

References;

http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog/odin-is-a-very-utilitarian-god